February 13, 2010 6:12 AM
And if you say to me tomorrow
Oh, what fun it all would be
then what's to stop us, pretty baby
but what is and what should never be
-Led Zeppelin, "What Is And What Should Never Be"
With profuse apologies to Led Zeppelin for blaspheming their iconic song title to do a telecom policy blog, this is essentially what Google announced to DC policy makers, via
its corporate/policy blog
, on Wednesday--except that the policymakers and the press didn't hear the last line. But, boy, did they eat up the first few . . . you can tell that Valentine's is in the air.
I say the "announcement" was targeted toward policy makers, because absolutely no relevant business information was provided in the announcement--you know . . . costs, prices, projected revenues, technology to be used, etc. No vendors, competitors, or even Google's Clearwire
partners (a venture from which--according to news reports
--Google has been backing away) were interviewed or consulted. No, but that's OK, because this wasn't a business "announcement."
What the "announcement" really
says is how much political clout Google carries in Washington. On a day when the Gub'ment is closed for a fourth consecutive day, some of the most important Government officials involved in technology policy were intrigued enough to very quickly issue "statements" in reaction to Google's blog post.
For example, the New York Times story
actually contains a "statement" from Chairman Genachowski reacting to the Google blog post, and the statement reacts to Google's announcement like it were an "official" announcement--like a firm commitment to enter a market in a specific way, explaining product terms and prices, entry timing, costs, and projected revenues. The Hill
even contains a statement from Senator John Kerry, Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet. Moreover, just about every story you'll read really "drank the Kool-Aid." From the articles I saw on line, only Computerworld got it right
But what gives me
the right to question Google's ambitiously-admirable, but vaguely-defined, "experiment", the belief of the bulk of the press, and some of the most important officials in Washington? Well . . . there's this small problem of the facts and the logic. First, Google's blog never says exactly how
they plan to offer this 1 gigabit/sec (1,000 megabit/sec) broadband service at a "competitive price." Second, the whole theory seems to contain a pretty glaring logical flaw: wouldn't Google deciding to become a broadband ISP allow other Broadand ISPs into Google's monopoly business?
Continue reading Google's "Think Big Gig": What Is And What Should [Will] Never Be
November 14, 2009 12:35 PM
Yeah, like I'm one to talk about someone finally "getting it right?" I've posted exactly 0 blog entries in one month (but it was a long month and we did go off daylight savings time), and I get to be a critic? Seriously, though, if they had such a thing as a "license to blog", mine would have already expired for lack of use. But, in my defense, I haven't posted anything in a while, because the big telecom policy talk of the day has been the FCC's proposed "Net Neutrality" Rulemaking, which was released on October 22nd. And, the fact is, I'm really uncomfortable with the subject of "net neutrality"--for several reasons, not the least of which is that I've always been kind of confused and intimidated by the subject, because it always meant something different to different people. However, now that the FCC has given it a concrete meaning, I have no excuses, so I'll hold my nose and start writing on it very soon.
The point of this post, though--because I'm not one of those "hater" bloggers (not all the time anyway)--is to give credit to the Broadband Team over at the FCC for their appropriately named 19th [Nervous Breakdown] NPRM where they ask about how the role of the current state of USF funding and distribution, and intercarrier compensation, can effect broadband deployment. As I am wont to do, I will take credit for prompting this NPRM--even though the subject was inescapable for the Broadband Team if they were going to do a comprehensive report (which they seem to be striving for)--because I wrote a post on this same subject two months ago (back when I was blogging).
The NPRM seeks, in my opinion the most important information of the inquiry, because, unlike a lot of panels and inquiries, this information could really end up setting the FCC's substantive agenda for the next year or more--after the report is issued. The reasons these issues are so big is that they are so pervasive, and so relevant to broadband deployment to rural and low income areas, and have been neglected for far too long. Moreover, in a broadband/Net-centric world, these two key policies remain firmly stuck in the pre-Telecom Act days. Additionally, it must be noted that it is impossible for the Commission to tackle my new favorite subject of Net Neutrality without first figuring out the effects of imposing "neutrality" on the two of the pillars of regulation that are currently built on discrimination. The FCC really can't think about imposing system-wide "neutrality" on a system that was never built to accommodate that principle (beyond common carriage--which the FCC's proposed Net Neutrality rules go well beyond), until the Commission understands how the current system promotes, or discourages, broadband Internet usage.
Think about it. Universal service was to be achieved on the theory that long distance (voice) subsidizes local, urban subsidizes rural, and business subsidizes residential. Similarly, interconnection prices (for originating and terminating specific calls) range from "free" (wireless termination) to 6-7 cents a minute or more (rural or intrastate toll landline terminations). Where discrimination is the law, economic incentives run counter to the law--and unproductive regulatory arbitrage is rewarded. This is the system that we have and that is crumbling. It certainly merits a look by the Commission as to how this system--and potential reforms--might promote broadband deployment in places where deployment is stuck, but subsidies persist to flow.
Finally, I think this NPRM will lead to the most long lasting effects on the Commission's agenda in the near future because these matters are the biggest matters affecting broadband deployment that the FCC has the most control over. I said it before, but these are the biggest issues from the past, that will be the biggest issues for the near future--if the FCC gets it right. Yesterday's announced NPRM assures that these issues will be accounted for in the report to Congress, and will probably produce more pressure from Congress to work on these matters for the sake of establishing a platform for economic growth.
So here's to you, oh conjurers of the Congressional Report, crack open a cold Bud Light, and . . . get back to work. . . you don't have a lot of time left!
September 18, 2009 12:13 PM
While the deep thinkers in government and in the general "world of the deep thinker" are thinking about lofty issues affecting broadband (remember, I said "lofty" issues), commerce proceeds apace, the domestication of the dog continues unabated, and . . . the "little", pragmatic issues surrounding broadband get bigger . . . but not "lofty." In a time where lofty gets most of the focus from the broadband plan, "free" is not as insignificant as it sounds.
"Free" is an afterthought, a cheesy giveaway, or, even worse, a gimmick. Yet, it is "free" that will force the Commission's head out of the clouds, and force the FCC to deal with the little, pragmatic issues that drive the little, pragmatic services that cause the little, pragmatic people . . . to buy broadband. Some would say it already is.
Everywhere you look, "free" is "in." Recently, Wired! Magazine published an article by Chris Anderson, called "Free! Why $0.00 Is the Future of Business." The article, which is essentially the thesis of a book by Mr. Anderson (available for free), notes that frequently what looks like "free" might just be a different cost-recovery system. For example, the "buy one, get on free" is a staple of sales promotions, similarly, Gillette makes profits off of repeated blade sales and not from selling razors, and Google makes money from advertisers, and obtaining "free" information about the value that consumers' place on certain search terms helps Google sell a better product to its advertisers. Most kinds of "free" aren't "free" at all (to consumers)--though they still may be good deals. Other kinds of "free" services are, in fact, "free" to consumers, because they involve transferring costs to another company in the supply chain, i.e., Mr. Traffic Pumper Guy.
Dow Jones today pointed out--in a very observant article--that at least part of the FCC cares a lot about the public's perception that it is standing up for consumers to have access to "free" applications. This, Dow Jones explains, may be one reason why the Commission cared enough to initiate an inquiry into why Apple didn't give "free" placement to Google Voice, a "free" call management/VoIP application, in its iPhone Apps Store. In other words, preserving "free" might be a good way to ingratiate yourself to certain "public interest" advocates. Dow Jones quoted a Senior Counselor to the FCC as saying, "We're moving to a broadband world and we want to maximize innovation and investment in the space."
Continue reading When Irresistible Force Meets Immovable Object . . . In the Land of the Free